Labor history comes alive in CFT Communications Director Fred Glass’s new book. But while over 100 UESF members have taken his successful course over the years, it now is in danger of getting axed by the administration. It will need enrollment by UESF members to survive.
Reprinted from the June 2016 SF Educator
For the past twenty years CFT Communications Director Fred Glass has taught a semester course in California Labor History for the Labor and Community Studies Department at City College of San Francisco. More than a hundred UESF members have taken the class.
UESF Executive VP Susan Solomon enrolled a decade ago. She found that it was “invaluable for members who wish to advance their knowledge about education unionism and its place in California history.” Buena Vista Horace Mann teacher Frank Lara took the class last fall. He said, “This class gave me great readings, filled in my knowledge of the struggles that led up to today’s world, and provided an opportunity to talk and think with people who care as much as I do about the future of public education.”
Glass was especially looking forward to the Fall 2016 semester at the CCSF Mission campus on Valencia Street. For the first time his students were going to be able to read from an actual book, instead of from handouts or a manuscript. That’s because his book, From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement, is being published this summer by University of California Press.
“This is the first overview history of California labor written in the past forty years,” said Glass. “I saw the class as a laboratory to develop the book. My students have been an ongoing focus group on how to write these stories drawn from the past two hundred years of workers’ struggles for their rights, providing me with feedback on what worked and what didn’t.”
But Glass’s excitement came to an abrupt end a couple months ago, when he found out that the CCSF administration’s plan to downsize the college by 26% of its classes over the next several years had started this fall with a 6% across-the-board cut that included his class and one other among the Labor and Community Studies department offerings.
“You would think that the publication of a book that was written for a City College class taught by a longtime instructor would be occasion for the college administration to celebrate the accomplishment and claim it for the college,” said Glass.
According to Tim Killikelly, president of the CCSF faculty union, AFT 2121, “Instead of meeting community needs by expanding course offerings back to where they were before the Great Recession, the administration’s approach is being dictated by the rogue ACCJC [Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges]. They are like the Vietnam War general who said it was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.”
There is still a chance that the California Labor History course might be offered this fall. Labor and Community Studies department chair Bill Shields says that if twenty students sign up to take the class beforehand, it could be inserted into the schedule on Wednesday nights as a late start class, beginning in early September.
That’s where you come in. Send an email to Bill Shields, wshields [at] ccsf [dot] edu or call him at 415-550-4473 and leave a message, stating your intention to take the class. UESF president Lita Blanc says, “We reimburse members for taking Labor and Community Studies courses as an investment in union activism. Signing up for the class will have the bonus effect of showing the college administration that Labor and Community Studies classes meet an important need.”
In other words, the village you can help save is your own.